One of my main creative outlets these days is writing and recording music. It’s faster than writing books, in that I can sit down, write and record a song over the space of a couple hours. Walk away with a finished piece at the end. I can’t exactly articulate it, but there’s a certain psychological satisfaction in that. Finishing something that becomes its own entity.
Anyway, I’ve finished recording an album of ten songs with the Inflatable Hippies. That’s the occasional music group I’m part of. IH floats between electronica, folk and rock. This album is just rock. The songs seem to exist somewhere in the space between Seattle grunge and the Cranberries. Plus some odd folk influences here and there.
The title is (tentatively) Love in the Time of Pandemica and should hopefully be easier to get through than Love in the Time of Cholera. I still need to do the final mixes and mastering, and then get them up on all the streamers, Apple, etc etc.
Writing music is one of my all-time loves. Probably even more so than writing prose. Both mediums answer the creative question, but there’s something almost magical about the existence of music; it contains both meaning and an elusive quality of being. Anyway, my current musical project is a non-existent group called the Inflatable Hippies. I’ve been doing mostly electronica in that guise. The latest tune is called Once Upon A Time. I cut together a series of clips to articulate the fascination of creation and our minute place in the overall narrative of all that is. No singing, only some spoken voice, courtesy of my youngest and me.
I often wonder if we’ll ever reach the stars. Definitely not in my lifetime, but perhaps in generations to come? The history of our own planet has been one of exploration and expansion, and I don’t think that quality has been lost in the human race. Once the technology is there, I’m sure exploration and expansion will continue. It’ll be at great cost to life, just like it was during the ages of the sea explorers, the colonial period, and the westward expansion of the United States, but mankind tends to be up for that sort of thing, despite the prevalence of couch potatoes.
My band, the Inflatable Hippies, has a new album coming out soon. Instrumental, no voices.
I find myself thinking about the musical creative process in a different way these days. If you take a step back and look at the variables–tone, timing, intensity, syncopation, melody, harmony, the voicing peculiarities of different instruments, mood, etc–you quickly realize that the possible outcomes are nearly infinite. All those components can be arranged and rearranged in a breathtaking number of different ways. A number that cannot be fathomed in human terms.
As countless as the grains of sand on all the world’s shores? As countless as the stars of the universe? I’m starting to think so. The problem (if it is a problem) becomes even more dizzying for me because I find my songs. I’m not sure if I create them. Typically, I’ll start by writing a melody on piano, record that, and then layer on some harmonies with different instruments until I have a dense mass of music. And then I’ll carve away pieces, not unlike a stone sculptor at work with a block marble. Finding the figure hidden within, that was always there, before the sculptor was even born.
While this means, in the light of sand and stars, there’ll be no end of songs to be discovered, what if we ever do come to the end of universe? No, the edge of the universe. We come to that end and find a humble door that opens into a place outside the universe. This might mean there are no songs on the other side of the door. No songs, no stars and no lovely beaches curving along the blue expanse of a south sea island bay.
Though, while there might not be any songs past that door, there very well might be things that, while they are not songs in the way we know music, they might be more truly music than we could ever imagine. I can only hope that there’s some echo of that in the Inflatable Hippies.